Book Review: The Lovely Bones 

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Title: The lovely Bones 

Author: Alice Sebold 

Publisher: Picador 

Genre: Thriller/Supernatural/Mystery  

Format: Novel 

Number of Pages: 328 

Publish Date: 2002 

Written by American author, Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones is the story of a young girl who, after being brutally murdered, watches from Heaven as her family struggles to come to terms with her death. The novel is a bestseller, and in 2009 a film adaptation was released.    

Synopsis of The Lovely Bones

Susie Salmon is fourteen when she is murdered, early December 1973, by the man next-door. Her abduction and murder take place when she is on her way back from school. With little evidence of who did it, the Salmon family struggle to move on, and Susie watches from a unique Heaven as the family tries to move on without her. In her Heaven, Susie has everything she ever wants, except for the chance to live out the life that was so wrongly taken from her.  

She is forced to watch as her family falls apart, her siblings grow up, her mother becomes absent, and her father deteriorates. All the while, not being able to do a single thing to stop it. Her father and sister will stop at nothing to figure out what happened. They cannot ignore the feeling that the man next-door had something to do with it. They fight to prove his guilt, and Susie helps in every way she can, occasionally breaking through the barrier between life and death.  


While taking her shortcut through a cornfield by her home, Susie is lured by Mr Harvey into visiting his underground bunker. Ignoring the feeling that something is wrong, Susie follows Mr Harvey. She is assaulted and dismembered by the bachelor who spends his time caring for his border-flowers and constructing dollhouses. When Susie fails to return home, her parents make a call to the police. They attract the attention of Detective Len Fenerman, who forms a close bond with Susie’s mother. Susie’s father struggles deeply with the loss of his daughter. He blames himself and struggles to accept her death. It is not long before he becomes suspicious of the man next door. With the aid of his remaining daughter, he tries to compile evidence against him. But it is not enough – and Mr. Harvey continues to slip through his fingers.  

Susie’s mother grows increasingly aloof in Susie’s absence, and being the motherly role for her remaining children becomes difficult. Instead, she chooses to distract herself with the company of Len Fenerman, and they find comfort within one another. Susie’s grandmother steps in to provide some much-needed support for the Salmon family, and grows closer to her grandchildren, who continue to pass key milestones within their lives – garnering an envy from Susie, who is frozen at the age she died, and cannot help but yearn for the experiences she missed out on.  


Susie is only 14 when she is murdered, and she acts as the narrator for the novel. The story centres around the connections she had made before her death, and how her absence affects those she left behind. Her father, Jack, is infatuated with discovering his daughter’s murderer, and Abigail, Susie’s mother, is disconnected from the family. Lindsey, Susie’s younger sister, puts up walls – she isolates herself, holds back tears, and struggles to figure out where she belongs. Buckley was only young when Susie lost her life, but that does not stop him from connecting with her after death. He grows up in the shadow of his sister’s death, which influences his character. Ray, Susie’s first love, and Ruth, the odd girl from school who is the first to connect with Susie’s soul, question whether Susie is truly gone. This novel carries a range of characters, and in doing so, portrays varied responses to Susie’s murder.  


This novel is emotionally driven; it highlights the effects of child-loss and how it can drive apart a family. Taking on a suburban gothic theme, The Lovely Bones reflects the idea that even the most perfect of places can hold dark secrets. Susie’s neighbourhood is similar to that of which Sebold herself grew up in, and therefor holds some more personal aspects. Sebold has taken an event that is personal to her and reconstructed it to allow the audience to observe great evil. We can argue that Sebold wants to encourage the idea that events as horrendous as this are not reserved for urban areas. It was easier for bad people to get away with terrible things. In one of her interviews, Sebold reflects on how she would often see milk-cartons with the faces of missing children printed on them. Writing The Lovely Bones allows her to share the narrative of these children – the POV of a victim.  

The omniscient/homodiegetic narration within The Lovely Bones allows Sebold to tell this story from a unique perspective. It is not often that we hear the story from an already-dead narrator. This rare point of view makes the story more emotional, more personal. It also allows the audience to access in depth knowledge regarding each character. This is information we would not have access to otherwise. 


While I would recommend this book to all, it does carry mature themes. You should look into these prior to reading The Lovely Bones. This novel reaps a range of emotions, from frustration to devastation, and will take you on an emotional joyride. But there is a deeper message within the pages, that goes beyond the grief; a message of hope and redemption. And so, this is definitely one that should be added to everyone’s TBR.  

Overall Rating: 7.5/10 – Good  

Further Links: 

To purchase The Lovely Bones, click here 

For additional information regarding Alice Sebold, click here